6 Tips to Avoid Writer’s Block + 4 More

Writer’s Block

 Rory Marinich from LifeHack has provided a great resource for all budding authors, and can be applied to nearly every assignment scenario. Sometimes the hardest part of any assignment can be the beginning. Even if you have already done a lot of research, the writing process is often very intimidating. The 6 tips provided by Rory can help:

  • Decide what you actually want to write
  • Make sure you’re interested in what you’re writing
  • Outline the basics of what you’re trying to get done
  • Stop everything else and concentrate on writing
  • Lower your standards
  • Take your time before revising

One of the best tips I was ever given about writing was by my high school english teacher, who said that the most important part of any writing is in the plan behind it. Most students start writing straight away, and just go from the start to the end. While this sounds logical, there are easier ways to improve your writing. To go along with the 6 tips above, I have created 4 more from my personal experience.

  • Don’t start at the beginning – the introduction and the conclusion should be written last. This means that they will flow more easily into the body of the writing. It also allows you to summarize the whole article/assignment/story with ease.
  • Write a Plan – creating a simple page long plan of what you are going to write can be one of the most powerful tools in any writer’s arsenal. Just create a list of dot points of all the topics that you want to cover, and in which paragraph they should fall.
  • Edit, Edit and Edit Again – no matter how many times you read through something you have written, you will never remove all of the errors. Getting another person to help you edit is much more effective because they might pick up on things that you have missed. Editing should be the final thing that you do, but it could very well take the longest.
  • Write by Hand – something that I have noticed, is that my work is almost always better when I write it by than when I use a computer. This is because you have the ability to change things much more easily. Entire paragraphs can be crossed out in an instant, and it seems to just give a different style of writing than anything computer based.

I think the one thing that we can all agree on is that the most difficult, and yet important part of writing is before you have even started to write. Creating a plan, focusing your attention on a specific topic, and writing about what you are interested in can help you in your writing difficulties.

3 Ways to Improve your Note Taking Skills

Notes

Having full and detailed notes that you can understand are one of the most valuable tools that a student can have, but it can be hard to create these yourself. Writing during classes and lectures can mean that you are distracted from what the lecturer is actually saying, but it is sometimes vital. There are 3 easy steps that you can use to create study notes that will get you better marks in your exams.

  1. Write your own notes – a lot of students find the exams upon them and that they don’t have anything to base their study on, so they borrow the notes of their friends. Although they may have a lot of good information, because you did not write it yourself, there is no way that you can absorb all the information in such a short period of time. Writing your own notes from the beginning means that you are continually learning throughout the semester.

  2. Write in your own words – simply copying your lecturers definitions and working from the board does not mean that you will understand it again 3 or 4 months later. Next to your notes I suggest that you write everything out again in your own words. These should explain everything out again in their basic, simplest terms. Try to think of these as what you would want to read if you were learning it the first time.

  3. Draw Pictures – having diagrams and pictures in your work can be especially helpful for expanding on your written notes, particularly in maths based courses, but they do apply to most student’s topics. Having images can change your notes from being ‘good enough’ to being ‘more than enough.’

These tips do not take a lot more work than you should already be putting into your work, but they certainly pay off in the long run. In courses where you have anywhere up to 6 months of information to memorize, having a good set of notes can be extremely benficial, so I suggest you start now.

The Smart Student’s Way to Get Things Done

Tick

Have a big list of tasks that you need to complete by a certain time can sometimes be intimidating for even the most dedicated student. But there is an easy way to make youself feel more productive and hopefully get more things done.

The simple, yet somehow contradictory answer is to make a bigger list.

Expand each of your tasks into several different, smaller points, where each can be easily achieved. For example, if you have an assignment that you need to complete:

  • Maths Assignment

Then an easy way to cross that off your list, making yourself feel much more productive, and focusing your energy is to change it into:

  • Research Differentials
  • Question 1
  • Question 2
  • Hand it in

This means that you have turned one task into four much easier tasks. This is a secret that productive students use all the time to get more things done. Although you may say that this does not actually get anything else accomplished, it is very beneficial for your mind. You are constantly completing smaller tasks, and do not feel bombarded by the lack of accomplishment. This simple method can turn a long, hard day of study into a very productive day.

Get More Work Done – Change your Workspace

Workspace

Getting more work done in a shorter time frame is one of the most important things that any student should always be striving for. The most obvious way to do this is to try and remove all distractions from the room around you. TV’s, computer games, music, and friends can all be taken out of the picture for the short time that you need to work.

It is for this reason that people seem to get so much work done in a specialized workspace, like a library or cubicle. Sit down, and focus on completing a certain amount of tasks in a distraction free environment, and you will certainly get more work done.

If you work or study in the same place that you relax, than this can be a problem. Distractions will always creep into your work, and it will be harder to focus.

Hope is not lost however. There are ways to create a more ‘Work Friendly’ environment.

  • Remove all distractions, eg. computers, TVs, music

  • Establish uninterruptible periods [LifeHack/Steve Pavlina]

  • Get everything you need within easy reach, eg. textbooks, calculators, blank paper

My personal favourite is to go to your local library. It is a quiet place, with huge amounts of information just around the corner.

The real reason this works is because of the change in your mindset. One place is to relax, the other is for work, and the two should never meet. The problem for most students is that these two places are the one room. Try this out for a few days, and you will certainly see an improvement.

How to Save Money on Textbooks

 

Textbooks

 

Brad Issac from Dumb Little Man said to “Get your Books early.” This may be a good thing to do if you want to get them out of the way and focus on your studies, but it is the complete opposite idea if you need to save money for your books for college.

I have learnt from experience to wait as long as possible before buying textbooks. It is very often the case that lecturers are forced to issue textbooks for each of their classes, but then never even use them. Another possibility is that one of their collegues actually wrote the books, and they are trying to increase sales.

If you wait at least two weeks before you start buying textbooks, you will have a vague idea of what textbooks will be used, and which ones will not. Sometimes this can mean a saving of several hundred dollars, and in the long run this is a great financial success.

If you do decide that there are several textbooks you need to buy, then there are still several ways to save money.

  1. Second Hand Stores

  2. Buy from other Students

  3. Buy an earlier edition

  4. eBay

A lot of textbook publishes bring out a new edition every few years, and the only differences are the chapter or page numbers. Buying an earlier edition can be a significant saving, and there really isn’t that much difference at all.

Remember, the book stores will never run out of textbooks, and you can always order more in. You will not miss out.

5 Ways to Increase your Productivity by Working Smarter

Study Hard

As the first post of the new and improved Student Help Forum, I decided to go out with a bang. Staying productive is an important part of any students life. With all the distractions of modern life, there needs to be a way to be able to combat procrastination and get all your work done. But there is an alternative – reduce the amount of time you work and increase the amount of work you get done.

  1. Organize your Life – Work on your most important tasks first. There is no use spending hours on a trivial task when a much more important one can be done in a few minutes. Planning a schedule can be hard to do, but there are many ways to do this easily. [WikiHOW]
  2. Create a To-Do List – This is an extension of point 1. Create a list of everything that needs to be done and change the order in terms of what what should be done first. Remember to cross things off as you complete them. There is a great feeling of relief when you can finally cross another task off your list.
  3. Remove Distractions – Turn off the TV, take the phone off the hook, and close down your email. There is nothing worse for your productivity than continually stopping and start because of distractions. Complete your tasks, and then give yourself a bit of a break. Do not do both at once.
  4. Establish a Routine – If you focus on a certain topic for an hour every morning, then you will quickly teach yourself that mornings are the best time to think about that topic. This means that you will always feel more inclined to do work then you would at random intervals. The most important part of this step is to stick to your routine. [ZenHabits]
  5. Related Topics – If you have several maths based subjects, then it is more efficient to study them both in a row than to keep switching between topics. This means that you brain can focus on a single basis for a longer period of time instead of changing rapidly.

Don’t get too stressed out about your study when there are simple steps that you can use to work smarter, not harder. By optimizing the time that you do spend working you can get much more completed. This is based on the famous 80/20 rule, which says that 20% of your time completes 80% of your work. It is up to you to increase this percent.

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